The line-up for the 2010 AFC Champions League Round of 16 has been completed with Pakhtakor, Bunyodkor, Beijing Guoan, Al Shabab and Mes Kerman all claiming their passage on the final Matchday. The concluding fixtures saw a number of heavyweights topple, most notably Al Ittihad and Sepahan, whose dreams of continental glory have ended. Conversely, both Al Shabab and Mes Kerman won in dramatic fashion to seal an against-the-odds qualification.
Korea Republic proved the biggest winners in the group phase, with all four participants easing into the next round. Iran also enjoyed a productive campaign with three sides forcing their way through, while Saudi Arabia, Japan and Uzbekistan each have two teams remaining in contention.
The big game
Beijing Guoan 2-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Goals: Joel Griffiths 26, Valdo 47
Needing just a draw to progress, hosts Beijing of Group E rounded off their group campaign in style defeating last year’s quarter-finalists Kawasaki 2-0 to advance. The visitors were the first to attack, dominating the opening stages with both Hiroyuki Taniguchi and Yusuke Mori close to scoring the opener. Having weathered the Japanese storm, the home side took the ascendency courtesy of Joel Griffiths, who coolly fired home from close range. The opening goal turned the tide and sparked Beijing into further attacking forays. Two minutes into the second half, Brazilian forward Valdo settled the contest after rounding goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
The win came as more than just three points for Beijing, who not only secured their maiden progression, but also ensured there would be a Chinese presence beyond the group stage. However it doesn’t get any easier for the capital side, with K-league giants Suwon Bluewings their next opponents in a one-off tie in a fortnight’s time.
Mes Kerman 3-1 Al Hilal
Goals: Edinho 5, Paulo Zaltron 76, Mahdi Rajabzadeh 90+2; Mohammad Al Mahyani 51
The battle for Group D's second spot concluded with a surprise outcome, with unfancied tournament debutants Mes Kerman scraping through courtesy of a stunning 3-1 win over Al Hilal, combined with Al Sadd's unexpected 2-2 draw with Al Ahli. Kerman pressed hard and got off to a bright start when Edinho fired past Mohammad Al-Deayea after just five minutes. The visitors, however, pulled level six minutes after the interval through Mohammad Al Mahyani. Roared on by the home crowd, Kerman went on the offensive and restored the lead when substitute Paulo Zaltron scored with a brilliant solo effort. Deep into stoppage time, Mahdi Rajabzadeh capitalised on an Al-Deayea error to complete the win.
Despite the triumph, Kerman’s ticket was not stamped until the already-eliminated Ahli crushed Al Sadd’s hopes with a last-minute equaliser in the other game. The outcome helping to set up an all-Iranian clash with Group B winners Zob Ahan in the next outing.
In Group B, Al Ittihad’s run to their third Asian title was brought to an abrupt end after losing to Zob Ahan by a solitary goal. Needing three points to go through, the Jeddah giants were completely outplayed by the already-qualified hosts, who ensured pole position in the section courtesy of Mohammad Khalatbari’s second-half strike. The Saudi’s pain, however, proved to be Bunyodkor’s gain as the Uzbeks went through with a 4-1 home win over Al Wahda. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s charges now meet Al Hilal in the next round.
Group C concluded with Sepahan bowing out after losing to Al Ain 2-0 while Pakhtakor were outstripped 2-1 by hosts Al Shabab, who progressed as group winners. Despite the narrow defeat, Pakhtakor finished in second place, a point clear of Sepahan.
Already heralded as Al Shabab's talisman this season, Angolan hitman Amado Flavio justified that status by scoring a late winner against Pakhtakor. The goal took his tally to five which places Flavio second in the competition’s scoring chart.
3 of the four first-timers endured a tough baptism with Henan Jianye, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Persipura Jayapura exiting after the group stage.
What they said
"I am happy with our win and we deserved our 100 per cent record. This is a result courtesy of our hard work and we should continue to play each game like a final." Kashima Antlers head coach Oswaldo Oliveira
2010 AFC Champions League Matchday 6 results
Group A: Al Ahli (KSA) 0-1 Al Gharafa (QAT); Al Jazira (UAE) 2-1 Esteghlal (IRN)
Group B: Zob Ahan (IRN) 1-0 Al Ittihad (KSA); Bunyodkor (UZB) 4-1 Al Wahda (UAE)
Group C: Al Ain (UAE) 2-0 Sepahan (IRN); Al Shabab (KSA) 2-1 Pakhtakor (UZB)
Group D: Al Sadd (QAT) 2-2 Al Ahli (UAE); Mes Kerman (IRN) 3-1 Al Hilal (KSA)
Group E: Seongnam Ilhwa (KOR) 3-2 Melbourne Victory (AUS); Beijing Guoan (CHN) 2-0 Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Group F: Kashima Antlers (JPN) 2-1 Jeonbuk Motors (KOR); Persipura Jayapura (IDN) 2-0 Changchun Yatai (CHN)
Group G: Henan Jianye (CHN) 1-1 Gamba Osaka (JPN); Suwon Bluewings (KOR) 6-2 Armed Forces (SIN)
Group H: Adelaide United (AUS) 0-1 Shandong Luneng (CHN); Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN) 4-3 Pohang Steelers (KOR)